House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged that there should be independence between the FBI and the president of the United States, but as for President Donald Trump’s misconduct, “he’s just new at this,” Ryan said.
While former FBI Director James Comey confirmed Trump’s repeated attempts to gain his loyalty and his request that Comey help “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigations over his administration to Senate investigators Thursday, Ryan attempted to explain away the most damning parts of Comey’s testimony.
“The president is new at this,” Ryan said of Trump’s inappropriate conduct with Comey, during his weekly press briefing. “He is new to government so he probably wasn’t steeped into the long running protocols … established between the DOJ, FBI, and White House.”
Ryan went on to say that the early portion of Comey’s testimony gave him a clearer picture of why Trump has been so “frustrated” with the Russia-related investigations as a whole, repeating a line used by the White House that Comey confirmed what Trump had been saying all along: that he wasn’t under investigation.
“What I got out of that testimony is that we now know why he was so frustrated, because Comey told him three times there was no investigation of him, yet that speculation was allowed to continue,” Ryan said. “So obviously we know why he was so frustrated.”
As leaked reports and anonymous sources continue to escalate the breadth of the White House’s Russia scandal, Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated and desperate for answers — largely because of the “distraction” that the mounting probes present for a Republican-led Congress in the throes of major legislation.
Ryan doubled down on his determination to stick to policy Thursday, and he said the president’s comments on the investigations also came from a desire to stick to legislating.
“We are repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank today — we have been working on the problems American people are facing and delivering on the promises we made during the campaign so we can improve their lives,” Ryan said. “That’s why the president is frustrated because these are the questions that are being asked while there is a lot of work to be done, and he wants to keep his commitment to the American people.”
As for learning to work with government, Ryan said he thinks Trump “is learning as he goes.”
“I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse, I’m just saying it’s my observation.”
Ryan did not directly address a follow-up question on whether Trump’s staff and counsel should be more active in educating Trump on the ways of government.